Can You Patent a Recipe?

The short answer is yes – but it must be unique!  Several conditions must be met for an invention to be patentable.  Importantly, the recipe must be novel, involve an inventive step, and produce a useful result. It should also be non-obvious to someone with skill in the art.

A patent is a time-limited monopoly that grants the inventor exclusive rights to their invention. Patents cover new processes, machines, devices, manufactures, and chemical compounds.


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) only grants a patent to inventions that are novel, inventive, and useful. Recipes are generally not considered to be inventive if they are simply a combination of known ingredients and methods. For example, it would be difficult to get a patent to protect your margarita recipe.

However, if your recipe has a unique aspect, such as a step that addresses a problem or is unconventional, receiving an issued patent is possible.  The key to developing a patentable recipe is identifying a unique quality or step that no one else has tried.

An alternative way to protect your recipe is through use as a trade secret, but it is not as effective as a patent. Trade secret protection requires that you keep your recipe secret and ensure that all people who know the recipe sign non-disclosure agreements. Unfortunately, this can be expensive and time-consuming to manage.

You can also hire a patent attorney to help answer any questions and determine whether your recipe qualifies for a patent.  At Dogwood Patent and Trademark Law, we can assess your recipe’s eligibility for a patent.  If your recipe qualifies for patent protection, we can help build a strong case for why it is non-obvious and innovative.  Then, we can help you file your application with the USPTO and ensure that it meets all of the requirements for approval.

Filing a patent application

When you have a recipe that is inventive, uses unique ingredients, and/or requires an original set of processes, you can apply for a utility patent to protect it.  If you are successful and your patent issues, the patent gives you the right to prevent others from making, using, selling, or importing your recipe for 20 years.

However, before you file for a patent, it is best to make sure that your recipe meets all the criteria for being patentable. The first requirement is that the invention must be useful and involve a composition of matter. Recipes typically meet this criteria but must also be novel and non-obvious to qualify for a patent. This is where things get a little tricky since recipes often consist of a combination of already-known ingredients. The only way to pass this test is to prove that your recipe creates a new technical effect not previously achieved by combining the same ingredients in different ways.

If you have a recipe that meets these requirements, the next step is to submit your application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Patent Office will conduct a search to see if your invention has been patented before. You can perform your own search online or hire a patent attorney or firm to do it for you. If the search results are favorable, the next step is to file your patent application with the Patent Office.  If the patent is approved, you will pay an issue fee and receive your patent.

Searching for patents

There are a variety of ways to search for patents. One way is to use a database of patents provided by the U.S. Patent Office.  Alternatively, you can use a third party resource that offers specialized search options. For example, you can search by classification or invention subject matter. You can also search by the inventor or assignee name, but keep in mind that name spellings can change over time. To find the most useful patents, you should use a combination of search methods to help you find patents that are relevant to your business.

Granting a patent

Getting a patent for your recipe can be lengthy, although there are ways to expedite your examination.  Once filed, the patent application will be assigned to an Examiner that will make a determination on whether your recipe qualifies for a patent – i.e., whether it is new, useful, and non-obvious.


If you have any questions about patenting a recipe or the patent process in general, please get in touch with Dogwood Patent and Trademark Law ( or 919-576-7612.


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